The Naga insurgency, almost as old as the Union of India itself, might be nearing its end.
While it may be premature to hope before the deed is done, the written commitment from the Nscn (IM) that it is going to accept the India Constitution — in other words, offer its allegiance to the Indian Union — is a significant breakthrough. The NSCN(IM) is reportedly also amenable to the idea of not redrawing state boundaries in the Northeast for the sake of peace.
The ball is once again in the Centre’s court, as the NSCN will wait for the deliberations with the governments of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur by which New Delhi will try to work out a special set of rights for Nagas in these neighbouring states.
While this is a major development towards peace and stability in the Northeast, the NSCN(IM)’s decision is only the logical outcome of a long insurgency in a large and democratic nation-state.
India’s history of dealing with insurgencies proves the expediency of the right combination of armed action and political outreach, exploiting the cracks in even the most sanguinary militancies, which allow room for democratic reconciliation. That has been the story in Punjab and Kashmir, in Assam and, hopefully, one day with the Maoists.
Diplomatic channels that reach out to the more moderate amongst extremists — along with force — keeps a finger on the pulse of an insurgency and ultimately ends up mainstreaming the militants.
If a solution can be framed before next year’s assembly polls in Nagaland, and the NSCN — which was formed in opposition to the Shillong Accord of 1975 and subsequently split — participates in the same, that mainstreaming would be near complete.
The benchmark settlement remains the Mizo Accord of 1986, an object lesson for tackling insurgencies across India.
Whether imitable or not, the Mizo Accord ended 30 years of the Mizo insurgency, and by 2008, Mizoram was recording 70 per cent turnout in elections.
If the Naga issue resolves in peace in the near future, it would positively impact neighbouring states too, particularly strife-torn Manipur, and speed up infrastructure and connectivity projects in the Northeast vital to economic growth in the landlocked and underdeveloped region.
India Express Editorial